With Thanksgiving upon us, we’re about to enter the holiday stretch of poor eating habits, which can contribute to bloating, discomfort, and feeling like your stomach is stretched out or bulging. Learning some common culprits and strategies to debloat will significantly improve how you feel this holiday season and well beyond. Here are 11 top ways to ease bloating.
Chew your food well
It’s common to rush through meals, but this can impact your digestive system and leave you feeling bloated. The digestive process starts with chewing, which helps break down food particles so you can digest the food more easily and absorb nutrients more readily. Failing to chew thoroughly means that larger particles go through your digestive system, making you more vulnerable to gas and bloating. A meal should take a minimum of 20 minutes, and ideally, during this time, you’re chewing thoroughly and putting your utensils down between bites. Hopefully, you spend even more time over a holiday meal. Taking time to savor your meals and chew your food well is an easy way to improve digestion and ease bloating.
When your water intake is low, your body draws water from your stool, which can leave you constipated and bloated. You’ll get fluids from other drinks and even from certain foods you eat (think: cucumbers and grapes, and other water-rich fruits and veggies), but water is an ideal drink because it’s naturally calorie- and sugar-free.
Skip the carbonated drinks
Bubbly water is fine when it comes to meeting your hydration needs, but the bubbles can get trapped inside you, which can then cause gas and bloating. If you notice this happens every time you sip on a seltzer, then a good way to ease bloating is to switch to plain water instead.
Watch your sodium intake
Salty snacks and other sources of sodium will encourage your body to hang on to water, which can make you look and feel bloated. Most of the salt in our diet comes from processed foods and restaurant foods, so to ease bloating, you’ll need to reduce your intake of these things. (Speaking of processed foods, here’s where you can learn about the worst processed foods what to eat instead.)
Take a mindful minute before you eat
There are so many reasons to incorporate this practice, but among them is the fact that it can help ease bloating. There’s evidence that deep belly breathing can help with belching, which can be a symptom of bloating. When you get in the habit of doing some deep belly breathing before you eat, it can also help you slow down when you eat, which also eases bloating.
Take a walk
Getting your body moving can help you expel gas trapped inside you, which will help ease bloating. Walking is a gentle activity that anyone can practice, even when a bit stuffed. One of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions is to take a post-meal walk with my son. It’s an enjoyable activity that also improves your digestion. (Here are 5 lifestyle habits that make a big difference in your health.)
Cut back on diet soda
If you’re prone to bloating, you may need to cut back on these drinks as well as other foods that contain artificial sweeteners. It’s not entirely clear, but many people report that artificial sweeteners trigger bloating. This seems to be especially true for people who have GI conditions, like irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease (such as Crohn’s disease). There’s minimal scientific literature on this topic, but some evidence exists that these sweeteners influence your microbiome and the contractions of muscles in your GI tract, and researchers have theorized that this may be why they could lead to bloating.
Give yourself time in the morning
Believe it or not, your body is primed to poop in the morning, and if you resist this urge, it can lead to bloating and constipation. When you’re thinking about your day, allow some time after breakfast to go to the bathroom. Your meal helps move your stool farther down the digestive tract, and if you’re a coffee drinker, compounds in both decaf and caffeinated brews stimulate your bowels and increase the urge to go.
Stick to reasonable juice limits
While 100% fruit juice contains no added sugars, it’s a concentrated source of fructose, a type of natural sugar that can promote bloating. If you’re routinely drinking more than a cup of 100% fruit juice every day, reduce that in half and see if it eases your bloating.
Stay within the alcohol limits
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but alcohol is a gut irritant that can trigger reflux and bloat. Plus, it’s common to drink alcohol in the evening, which may mean you’re lying down to go to bed shortly after your last drink. This can worsen any reflux you may experience. To ease bloating, stick to one drink a day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men. And skip the sugary cocktails since added sugar can also worsen bloating. (If you overdid it on the drinks, check out my holiday hangover advice.)
Be careful with sugar-free and low sugar snacks
Often, these snacks contain bloat-inducing ingredients, like artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols. Sugar alcohols end in “ol”--like sorbitol and mannitol, and they’re commonly hiding in low-sugar snack bars, mints, and gum. These lower-calorie sweeteners draw water into the colon, which makes you feel bloated and crummy. To ease bloating, check food labels for these ingredients, and if you spot foods with them, find replacements that won’t leave your belly feeling bloated. (Here are 12 healthy sweet snacks that skip these bloat-inducing sweeteners.)